China likely to set up military base in Pak: Pentagon report

RSTV Bureau
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 13, 2017. AP/PTI

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 13, 2017. AP/PTI

China is likely to build military bases in Pakistan in order to expand its military prowess, says a Pentagon report.

In its annual report to the Congress on China’s military build-up, the US Department of Defence said China’s construction of military base in the strategic location of Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world.

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the Pentagon said.

According to the report China is expanding its access to foreign ports to pre- position the  necessary logistics support to regularise and sustain deployments in the “far seas”, waters as distant as the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

But the report also said that China’s efforts to build more bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support” the presence of Chinese Army in one of their ports.

China is already developing the strategically located Gwadar port in Balochistan, which many experts in the US say, is aimed towards having a military presence.

“In February 2016, China began construction of a military base in Djibouti and probably will complete it within the next year,” it said, adding China claims that this facility is designed to help the navy and army further participate in UN peacekeeping operations, carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and provide humanitarian assistance.

This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.

“These engagements also assist PLA modernisation by facilitating the acquisition of advanced weapon systems and technologies, increasing its operational experience throughout and beyond Asia, and giving the PLA access to foreign military practices, operational doctrine, and training methods,” it added.

“China also continued to send submarines to the Indian Ocean, ostensibly in support of its counterpiracy patrols. In May 2016, a nuclear-powered attack submarine conducted a port call in Karachi, Pakistan, during a visit by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Commander, marking China’s first port call in South Asia by a nuclear submarine,” the Pentagon said.

According to the Pentagon, Pakistan is also China’s largest buyer of arms. From 2011 to 2015, China was the world’s fourth largest arms supplier with more than USD 20 billion in sales.

Last year, China also signed an agreement with Pakistan to sell them eight submarines.

(With inputs from agencies)